The Oscar Grant film, “Fruitvale Station” opens on the west coast as the murder trial of self-ordained, “armed official” George Zimmerman, gets under way on the east coast. Zimmerman murdered young, unarmed, African-American, Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida on February 26th, 2012. On New Year’s 2009, Oakland, California BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer, Johannes Mehserle, calmly murdered unarmed, hand-cuffed, contained, Oscar Grant at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART Station. Though these lethal events occurred at different times on completely opposite ends of the country, both are historically and systemically related.
Unwarranted attacks on the black community by police officers have been a national pastime since the 13th Amendment of 1865 outlawed enslavement capitalism in the USA. Once Blacks were no longer classified as chattel (property), American society deemed them expendable. Consequently, Blacks have been villainized, feared, and assaulted ever since. For more than 500 years officers, Klansmen, militia elitists, racist vigilantes, and other assorted terrorists have contributed to America’s racist culture of injustice and violence against all those who were/are not Caucasian and Christian. Not even Civil Rights activists, freedom riders, lunch counter demonstrators, nor little school children were safe from the “dark” demons of American racism.
Although society denies the existence of this infamous “elephant in the room”, African-Americans/Blacks continue to be stereotyped, profiled, black-balled, black-listed and branded the black sheep of the human family. This culture of racist indoctrination is so effective that even trained “officials” with guns and other weapons respond prejudicially towards young, black males. It remains the norm to suspect, detain, despise, attack, kill, falsely accuse, and all too often, falsely imprison young, African-Americans/Black men.
This constant and subliminal, yet severely effective method of disrespecting Blacks is automatically reinforced every time the words “dark” and/or “black” are used to describe anything that is considered negative, dishonest, horrible, terrible, miserable, unwanted, suspicious, cruel, vacuous, violent, sinister, harmful, wicked, scary, inhumane, evil, bad, sad, mysterious, etc. We are all victims of this cruel (dark) reality. This socio-psychological dynamic is played out across America daily, poisoning the population to color and judge the “usual suspects” in black & white.
Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant are just two among an endless litany of young, unarmed Black men from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds that have been profiled, assumed guilty, and murdered by countless white, over-zealous, militia members, and police officers across the USA. Such tragic incidents will continue as long as racism is allowed to dominate the American landscape.
Come see how one of these fateful moments of anguish is revealed in Ryan Coogler’s, “Fruitvale Station” (produced by Forest Whitaker). The film opens in select theaters Friday, July 12th. Tickets are available at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610. Visit www.fruitvalefilm.com for more details.